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A swine flu pandemic will infect up to 60 million jobs

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  • A swine flu pandemic will infect up to 60 million jobs

    By Mark Leftly in Florianopolis, Brazil

    Up to 60 million tourism jobs could be lost worldwide if swine flu turns into a global pandemic, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

    Oxford Economics and WTTC, the body that represents travel industry chief executives and is holding its annual conference in Brazil this weekend, is conducting research on the back of the avian and swine flu scares.

    WTTC economist Amir Girgis said: "In a worst case scenario, the figures show that the magnitude of a [tourism] downturn could be 25 to 30 per cent as a result of a pandemic. That's not H1N1 [swine flu] as it is now, but if it got much worse then it could cost 50 to 60 million jobs."

    Speaking at an emergency session of the conference on Friday, Oxford Economics chairman John Walker suggested that a fall in travellers could put a $620bn (?410bn)dent in the world tourism economy. Mr Walker added that this was based on the assumption that a second, more violent wave of swine flu emerges in the fourth quarter of this year. The Spanish flu of 1918-19 struck in two stages. He said: "People are going to stop spending out of fear, there is no getting away from that. We can assume that discretionary spending will fall by 30 per cent."

    Sebastian Escarrer, the vice-chairman at Spanish hotelier Sol Melia, admitted that the company had been forced to close two of its 11 hotels in Mexico, where the swine flu scare originated. A second Mexican operator said that occupancy rates were just 5 per cent.

    But, industry leaders played down the potential impact of H1N1. WTTC chairman Geoffrey Kent told delegates that economic problems and pandemic scares would ease in the long-term. "Don't worry about the credit crunch. It will go away. Don't be discouraged by world events. They'll sort themselves out. They always do. Don't be discouraged by swine flu. It's all overblown anyway," he said.

    The salvage of human life ought to be placed above barter and exchange ~ Louis Harris, 1918